Irwin's Safety Blog

A Respirator Could Save Your Life

February 7, 2020

Getting Fit-tested Could Protect You From Deadly Coronavirus 

3M mask

1. WHAT IS THE WUHAN CORONAVIRUS?

The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is a flu-like epidemic which began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The coronavirus can progress to pneumonia and sometimes even lead to death in infected individuals and is particularly dangerous for anyone with a compromised immune system, such as elderly people, newborns, or people who already have diseases like HIV or hepatitis.  

 

As of late January, more than 20,000 people have been infected and more than 450 have died as a result of the virus. Most of those affected have been in China, but the virus has spread across the world, and the first Canadian case was confirmed on January 23, 2020.According to some estimates the Wuhan coronavirus may be up to 2-3 times more contagious than the common flu and there are fears that as infected individuals continue to spread the virus around the world, it could lead to a worldwide pandemic similar to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which ultimately claimed more than 50 million lives.  

Although Health Canada has told people not to panic, the risk of infection is real. 

 

2. WHAT IS A RESPIRATOR? 

 

Respirators include any number of air control devices that protect wearers from the following: 

 

  • Dusts and fibers (solid particles released through contact work, such as grinding) 
  • Fumes – (solid particles released through heat-based work, such as welding) 
  • Mists – (liquid droplets, i.e. paint or oil) 
  • Gases – (gaseous molecules, i.e. carbon monoxide) 
  • Vapors – (liquid molecules that have evaporated due to heat exposure or pressure) 
  • Biological hazards (i.e. bacteria, viruses, feces, etc) 

 

20200203_161628Different types of respirators are graded according to their assigned protection factor (APFs) based on how well they protect the wearer from airborne hazards. APFs range between 5 and 10,000, with 5 being mild protection and 10,000 being extreme protection. Generally speaking, respirators fall into three general categories: particulate respirators with an APF between 5 and 50, air-purifying respirators with an APF of 1,000, and pressurized self-contained breathing apparatuses with an APF of 10,000. Particulate respirators are usually masks that filter out particles, purifying respirators may be connected to an air purifiication device, while SCBAs are entirely self-contained and can be used in non-breathable environments (such as underwater). 

 

No matter the APF, respirators are only effective if the seal is airtight, and all respirators must be fit-tested to ensure that they properly fit the wearer’s face. To do a proper fit-test, wearers must be clean-shaven and have facial jewelry removed. They also must not be children, as respirators are not fitted to the size of a child’s face.  

 

 

 

3. A RESPIRATOR COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE 

 

According to Healthline, wearing a respirator can protect you from contagious viruses. 

 

Many industrial workers already wear dust masks on the job site to protect themselves from chemicals, dust particles, and smoke. But a dust mask will not protect you from coronavirus. There is a big difference between the protection required from dust particles and the protection required by public health workers in viral environments. Health care workers wear N-95 respirators which must be properly fitted once per year. An N-95 respirator is a particulate respirator that keeps out 95% of airborne particles – significantly more than a dust mask. 

 

N-95 respirators have also been approved for use by the general public, and as the coronavirus continues to spread, workers should take extra precautions. The very best way to protect yourself, your family and your employees from coronavirus is by using N-95 respirators on your worksite.  

 

Contact Irwin’s to get your N-95 respirator fit test today!

 

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